The famous blue and white access symbol depicting a wheelchair user has been widely used throughout the world since the 1960s, but will soon be replaced in Connecticut. On Jan. 1, the Constitution State passed a law to replace it with a new symbol that illustrates a more active wheelchair user. Additionally, parking signs bearing the new symbol will say “reserved” instead of “handicapped.”
“It’s 45 years old,” said Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy about the outgoing symbol. “It was developed at a different time, when our own ideas as a culture and a society were much more about concentrating on that which held people back, as opposed to that which moves people forward, and so it was time.”
The new symbol depicts a wheelchair user leaning forward pushing their own chair. This active stance showcases that people with disabilities are not just passive, sedentary beings, but rather active, independent members of society.
“When I looked at it, and certainly when the governor looked at it, we saw the spiritual sense of what it is trying to represent — that there is an active component, an active element to the disabled community,” said Jonathan Slifka, Malloy’s liaison to the disabled community. “We felt there was no better way to show that than the symbol we will be using going forward.”
The new law echoes the efforts of the Accessible Icon Project, a Boston based activist group championing the need for a new logo that illustrates an active wheelchair user. The group has been placing the logo on signs and parking spaces around Boston since 2010 with its efforts aimed at changing the perception of what disability looks like. The group has sparked conversation and attention among disability advocates around the world, with its logo being used as far away as a hospital in Delhi, India.
“Since the start of the work in 2010, we’ve started seeing our icon in hundreds of different iterations and contexts, some edited versions, and some replaced wholesale with the new one,” the group said. “The project doesn’t belong to us now. It’s way beyond what we originally authored, and we’re glad. We’ve seen the icon become a kind of megaphone for our partners and friends with disabilities who see this image as a metaphor, as a symbol of their own wishes for agency and dimensional action in the world.”
With the new Connecticut law officially in the effect, the updated signs and symbols will start being placed at all new construction and in places where a sign needs replacement within the state. Businesses such as insurance giant Cigna already started using the logo last year.
Editor: Substantial opposition exists within the disability community to implementing this updated version of the universal access symbol. For more, see “The Great Blue Man Debate.”